Dealing with the public on social media


The tragic news of actor Paul Walker’s death in a violent car accident did not arise without some controversy, shockingly. TMZ first reported that Walker was killed in the car accident, but because of their reputation of reporting false stories in the past, some began to refute the story. Other news outlets disputed the story, saying that Walker was not confirmed as one of the victims.

Local Miami reporter for NBC 6, Courtney Fallon, linked to the TMZ story on her Twitter account. Some followers of hers, probably shocked and saddened by the story, immediately attacked her for doing so, citing the other sources that could not confirm Walker’s identity. These unruly people bashed her wholeheartedly, and it was rather unfortunate to see.

An hour later, the story was confirmed by her news outlet and the situation had subsided. Other news media members took to her defense, calling her situation ridiculous and calling for those who attacked her to apologize.

This circumstance might be a learning tool for myself and for other news reporters. Not only because you should be careful about what you put out on social media, but you should be careful about how you handle the public that is following you. You need to handle Twitter and other social media followers in a professional manner and can’t let your emotions get the best of you. I applaud Courtney Fallon for handling the situation in a professional manner and I hope I will have the same mental fortitude.

American journalism as it Is today


A recent Los Angeles Times article about a well-known author caught my attention because of a quotation within the article. Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side and Moneyball was attributed with the quote:

“Going from American journalism to British journalism is like going from bratwurst to Mexican food,” he says. “You go from feeling kind of constipated to feeling like you got the runs.”

In addition to being a funny comment, it is also a bit of a scary one to think about, at least from a journalistic perspective. If I’ve learned anything about the news media and about journalism over the past couple years or so, it’s that it is in a state of flux. It isn’t doing well, it isn’t doing horribly, but no one is really sure what to think of it. It has also been challenged in many ways due to ethical problems and controversial scenarios.

And that’s from my perspective in North America.

With that being said, the fact that a respected writer like Lewis is saying that the British side of things is worse off makes me a little uneasy. Not because I plan on moving to Great Britain, but because it means that journalism in America can get even worse. It isn’t overly something to worry about at the moment, and there is still some fine journalism going around, but there is a lot of poor journalism as well.

Fake stories, wrong sourcing, poor grammar, the list goes on. With this booming technological age that we are in, there will undoubtedly be bad journalism. Being first to break a story has become more important than delivering journalistic gold that takes patience.

I’m not sure what it will take to get back to the golden age of journalism or whether we ever will again. But we can at least report the truth, and do it eloquently. Then maybe some of the bad journalists will be scraped out.

Sportswriters in conflict of interest?


Sportwriter and NFL reporter for CBS Sports Jason La Canfora brought up a very interesting point with a tweet he sent out last night after the Thursday night’s game between Indianapolis and Tennessee.

I had never really even thought of the idea that reporters and players and coaches might share the same agents. In fact, I never even thought about the fact that reporters do have agents. It may not seem like a big deal to many, but it brings up a huge question in terms of conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest is one of the main points in any discussion of professional ethics in journalism. It’s essential for journalists to be out of the story (depending on the type of story, mostly that is the case). Journalists are taught to avoid conflicts, whether real or perceived. And when there is unavoidable conflict, they need to disclose it.

Reporters sharing agents with players and coaches nearly discredits any story that that reporter writes about the player or coach whom he shares that agent with. As unbiased as the story may be, it doesn’t matter.

This is a rather interesting topic of discussion to me because of my prior writing experience. I used to write for a community website about the Tennessee Titans. My job was to write articles about the team, whether objective or subjective, positive or negative, anything I could come up with. During the time that I worked, there was no real conflict because of the state of the website. It wasn’t exactly professional because we weren’t getting paid to do it. It was merely my thoughts written in type, with one editor making tweaks.

That “job” didn’t necessarily prepare for me for the conflicts that I may face if I pursue a career in journalism. I do now understand that there are situations where those conflicts are unavoidable. But when they are avoidable, it is important for me to eliminate myself from the equation in the fairest way possible.

Questions within a national story


We’ve essentially been beaten to death by the Miami Dolphins scandal involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. I’ll spare the details in order to get to the journalistic side of the story. This story raised several questions and kind of put a dent into the integrity of sports journalism, or at least some are saying that.

When the story broke, everyone went into a bit of an outrage, whether they were taking Martin’s side or Incognito’s. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. That’s where problems begin to brew. Yes, everyone has the right to their own personal opinion. But when that opinion is thoroughly thrown across everyone’s faces, the thin line of professionalism is crossed.

As journalists, we can’t allow that to happen.

This story wore that line even thinner. Sportswriters began to draw conclusions hours after the initial story was told. Most didn’t care that there were infinite amounts of questions to be answered by all different kinds of sources. As journalists, we are told to report the truth. And though these journalists may have just been tweeting out their thoughts, they needed to be aware that they are the guides for the masses. Everything they say is taken into account by the public that is reading their thoughts. Stating your opinion on a subject that is incredibly premature in nature defies all counts of logic that journalism entails.

In addition to that, journalists were beginning to take sides without even considering the personal aspect that the story consisted of. Bullying is a very serious topic, one that should not be taken lightly by anyone. Not everyone has been bullied, and I myself can’t speak on the subject, but writers were talking about the people in the story as if it was a joke. As if Martin was a big crybaby and Incognito was just a product of his employers.

No one really knew what had happened or what was going on. Still, many journalists found  themselves knowledgeable enough to speak their thoughts without thinking of the repercussions. This story easily raised more questions about journalism than it may have solved.

Revisiting the Manti Te’o hoax


Remember when that star college football player had a long-standing internet relationship with a girl he never met?

Then that girl died and it was a huge deal that he had to deal with those circumstances, especially after his grandmother had died recently? How he used to talk with that girl on the phone when she was in the hospital? And that girl turned out to be a fake account ran by a friend of Te’o’s? Yeah, good times.

The details are long and take some time to read, but to say it’s worth it would be an understatement. It was one of the weirdest stories that I’ve ever came across and everyone else would say the same thing.

What was looked over throughout all the weirdness, though, was some of the best investigative journalism that had been seen in a while. Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey of Deadspin worked their butts off to get to the bottom of an intriguing, yet ridiculous, story about one of the nation’s most popular names.

They did the research. They made the calls. And after all was said and done, after a process that took months of investigation and years of backtracking, they did what they set out to do. They got to the bottom of it all, and they found the truth.

Though it may have resulted in Te’o looking bad and helpless, the story was needed to clear the air of mystery. Journalism doesn’t always spare everyone, nor should it. Journalism is supposed to report the truth. And that’s what Burke and Dickey did.

Now if only every other journalist could follow suit.

The state of investigative journalism


Investigate journalism is an interesting and polarizing topic within the media and within society. It raises questions of ethics, while quibbling with the laws set in place by government. Though it’s a different story in different countries, the worries are similar.

In Britain, members of the news media are skeptical as to whether investigative journalism can survive. Or, worded better, whether it can succeed.

“It’s not a case of can investigative journalism survive. Of course it can,” said Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. “Will it survive with us as a body of people depends on our editorial will, it depends on the law, it depends on having the nerve to keep on doing it because that is the path to editorial and commercial success.”

For journalists venturing into investigative journalism, the law is a big obstacle. But if the public is for this type of journalism, then journalists can be protected. In Britain, at least, the public is on their side.

A poll determined that more than half of the British public believe that investigative journalism has a positive impact, while only 12 percent believed it had a negative one.

Investigative journalism is more important than we may think or believe. It pushes boundaries that are put up for a reason. While at times it may go too far, we need that type of news for our society. Not only so that the truth can be presented, but also for our society to continue to be stimulated.

Isn’t news media supposed to be united?


Isn’t news media supposed to be united? At least, that’s what I usually like to believe.

Following Sunday’s epic showdown between the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys, wherein the Broncos squeaked by the ‘Boys 51-48, there was a showdown in and of itself among local Cowboys news media members.

Though not much is really known about the nature of the incident, apparently there was a little bit of a turf war between different local news reporters inside the Cowboys’ locker room. They were just jostling for position to interview a certain player. It actually prematurely shut down the Cowboys locker room.

Do these reporters have any semblance of discretion or compassion?

Sometimes it seems like the news media just wants the attention on itself in order to increase ratings or readership. Sometimes I don’t really have any idea what they are doing. This seems like a case of both the former and the latter.

If media members covering the same team can’t even get along with each other in a completely controlled environment, then I am not surprised in any way by the status of our country at the moment. The government shutdown seems to make a little more sense.

False news reporting has to stop


I’m having trouble understanding how reporters and journalists can keep putting out false information without any repercussions.

The most recent example of this was in a story about NFL All-Pro Running Back Adrian Peterson. Apparently, his two-year-old son was the victim of a disgusting, inhumane beating at the hands of a 27-year-old man. As reports surfaced, the infant was in critical condition.

The story was initially reported by TMZ on Oct. 11, where it said that Adrian Peterson Jr., the child that Peterson Sr. is always seen with, was hospitalized in critical condition.

With a bit of patience and fact-checking, several other news outlets soon disputed the TMZ report in that the child was, in fact, Peterson’s son, but not the one that he holds so dearly. Apparently, he has no contact with this child or with his mother. The boy might not even be Peterson’s son, as no paternity test was ever conducted.

Despite the weirdness and the murky details, I find it very distasteful that news outlets just throw out information to be first in line. This kind of false information hurts people, both emotionally and mentally.

It happened during the Boston Marathon bombing, where an innocent person was wrongly identified in the news as the bomber. And now it’s happening again.

At some point it will have to stop, though I’m not sure it will soon given the fast-paced, technologically advanced society we live in.

When does it go too far?


We are in a point in time where the distinction between too far and not far enough is dangerous.

As a news reporter, it’s tough to walk the line of right and wrong. One too many details and your morals and ethics will be questioned. Leave out too much and suddenly your journalistic integrity is being questioned. I’ve struggled at times with this when cutting details out of stories, not only to make the story shorter, but also to not cross the invisible, ethical line.

This type of dilemma applies to all types of media.

For instance, the most recent noticeable issue with going too far comes by way of television host Jimmy Kimmel. The late-night talk show host parodied a recent interview that hip-hop artist Kanye West gave the BBC, using a little kid to portray West drinking a milkshake and giving ludicrous answers.

Mr. West didn’t take the parody so lightly, responding to Kimmel on Twitter. He angrily tweeted that the interview he did was “the first piece of honest media in years.”

“You don’t have scumbags hopping over fences trying to take pictures of your daughter,” also directed at Kimmel. “You can’t put yourself in my shoes.”

Kanye hasn’t exactly given himself the benefit of the doubt as he’s been the epitome of controversy over the last few years. Even a couple of months ago, West was at the center of it all when he assaulted a paparazzi.

As biased as I may be as a Kanye West fan, sometimes the media just go over the border. It’s happened numerous times with West and it’s probably happening at the moment. He’s constantly swarmed by media members taking his picture or shooting video from point-blank range, asking questions about his personal life. Do those people think about what it would be like if they were in his position?

They probably don’t and Kimmel probably didn’t either when he flat out made fun of him. Kimmel doesn’t care because that’s who he is as a person. I wonder if journalists care about the lines they cross.

I know it goes into consideration for me. Whether it does for others is of interest to me.

When will NBA stay out of Its own way?


There are rumblings that the National Basketball Association is trying to have NBA players from the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets wear jerseys with their preferred nicknames on the back of their jerseys.

I am not making this up.

Instead of the traditional way, in which every single player has his last name on the back of the jersey, players will be able to choose which nicknames they want on their jerseys. For instance, LeBron James will most likely use “King James” or “LeBron.” Ray Allen might use “Jesus Shuttlesworth,” a character he played in the hit movie “He Got Game.”

“”Fans will like it and so will a lot of the players,” Allen said. ”Guys will get a good kick out of it.”

Though Allen and a couple of other players might like the idea, I’m not jumping on the bandwagon. Neither is Heat forward Shane Battier, although he’ll obviously comply with the league should it happen.

The NBA just loves the attention, because with it comes, of course, the money. But this is as cheesy as anything any major sports league has done. And it isn’t the first time that the NBA is making headline news for something they shouldn’t be doing.

In 2011, all-star point guard Chris Paul was traded from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers. But Commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade, stating the trade was not in the best interest of the Hornets and of the league. He cited “basketball reasons” as his rationale. Paul was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade that the NBA didn’t deem too bad for them.

It’s always about them and this latest publicity stunt shows their selfishness and a lack of professionalism.

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